Tiger Shrimp Escape
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in August, 1988 there was an accidental release of roughly 2,000 Asian Black Tiger Shrimp from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) operated Waddell Mariculture Center located on the Colleton River in Bluffton, SC which is about 20 miles from Savannah, Georgia. The accidental release was reportedly due to an improperly installed containment screen. In any case, about three hundred Tiger Shrimp were recovered leaving approximately 1,700 mature shrimp unaccounted for. However, since 2006 the live captures of Tiger Shrimp on the east coast have increased 500%+, including juveniles. Although people can and do eat Asian Tiger Shrimp they also carry and could possibly transmit various viral diseases to the native shrimp; none of which effect humans. Should coastal residents and fishermen be concerned over the introduction of this new species in Georgia and southern waters? And how will this effect the indigenous shrimp industry?
These Asian Tiger Shrimp or Penaeus monodon (P. Monodon) may have an advantage over local species when competing for food. A high tolerance to salinity combined with a rapid growth rate have been ideal for the successful introduction to the eastern coastal areas of Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. Their larger size and more aggressive nature may be due to the fact they are indigenous to the Pacific Ocean which is the largest body of water on the Earth and generally produces larger sea animals than the Atlantic Ocean. The eastern coastal species of fish such as Trout and Redfish may be ill suited to take on an aggressive crustacean that is a foot long and weighs upwards of an American pound. P. Monodon may represent a new menu item on the list of locally obtained seafood but at what cost?
Tiger shrimp success may be in part because they are reportedly cannibalistic in nature. Is it possible that the Black Tiger could destroy the shrimp that are native by possibly feeding on the young larvae of the smaller white and brown shrimp found in coastal Georgia? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) seems to think so,
“feeding primarily on small crabs, shrimp, bivalves and gastropods (Marte 1980)”¹
Overall, the effects on the coastal environment are unknown at this time. However, one very large concern is the effect on the coastal Georgia shellfish population; primarily young oysters. Local seafood such as the white shrimp give Georgia Bulldogs a sense of state pride. Could it be that the concerns are really a sense of this pride and not truly a legitimate issue? By the nature of currently reported scientific opinion, this is not likely the case.
In the fall of 2011 a team of scientists from USGS, NOAA, and SCDNR began collecting coastal P. Monodon samples for genetic research. This, in an attempt to narrow in on the source of the Black Tiger Shrimp caught on the east coast of the United States, should shed light on the matter. The reality of the fact is no one person or organization really knows for sure where these monster prawns have come from at this time. We may rest assured that answers will be forthcoming within a few more years of ecological study of P. Monodon by the marine ecologists in coastal Georgia.
In conclusion, some people may not like the idea of a non-indigenous shrimp in the coastal area of Georgia, but they do offer a new source of local seafood. Unfortunately, Tiger shrimp do carry viral diseases that local shrimp do not and might pass these on to the native population. However, it may be that this will work out to the benefit of the local shrimp industries. Only time and more studies will tell.
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